21 Sep 2006

Big Bay free trade zone deal no certainty, says Vanuatu PM

2:41 pm on 21 September 2006

Vanuatu's Prime Minister says the government hasn't fully committed to a proposal by an American investor to create a free trade zone in Santo's Big Bay area.

Ham Lini says while his Lands Minister has signed an MOU with Texas-based Pacific Vanguard Corporation over the freehold ownership proposal, the deal is not a certainty.

The MOU has drawn criticism from some Santo chiefs who say the customary landowners have not been consulted.

And concerns are being raised about the involvement of two Americans banned from Vanuatu, and their links to the Nagriamel movement pushing for the deal.

However, Mr Lini says the MOU only creates a working relationship with the company while the merits of the deal are analysed.

"So a lot of issues are raised on this but the government stand is that this is a work in study and when it comes to the end, we'll take the decision on whether to accept that or not. But at the moment they're doing some feasibility studies and finding out the advantages and disadvantages which happen in Santo."